Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 30, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96. Following as it does on our first reading from Thessalonians, the psalm is an encouragement to trust God completely and to demonstrate that trust in unconditional praise.

The tone of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians suggests that, since his last visit, many of their community have died. The people are grieving, and they are unsure of what their new faith offers them.

Reading this passage today, I was taken back a few months to the first wave of COVID through our local Mercy community. Several of our sisters died. Their deaths came relentlessly, one after the other. There was a painful point at which we hated to hear the phone ring in the morning because it carried so many daily losses to us.

When, after weeks of bereavement, we were unlocked to visit one another again, there was a stunning emptiness in so many of the beloved spaces of our community!

We, who loved these sisters and the brave beauty of their generous lives, felt a grief reminiscent of the emotions in this plaintive song from Les Miserables.

That same kind of grief ripped though our nation this week with the murders of thirteen service members and nearly 200 Afghans at the Kabul airport as they sought freedom and peace.

from PBS.org

Death is cruel, and when it comes in a ravenous cluster, it is overwhelming. It was to such an overwhelmed community that Paul wrote these words:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessolonians 4:13-14

This remarkable hope, this blessed assurance, is the defining character of the Christian heart. It is the power that lifts us out of darkness and gives us the courage to praise God in all circumstances.

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless the divine name;
proclaim the good news of our salvation from day to day.
Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations 
and the wonders of God among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, 
more awesome than all other gods….

Psalm 96: 1-4

… “more awesome than all our gods”…

even the false gods of death and war …

We are a people called to believe the declaration of today’s Gospel, that Jesus Christ is among us to restore Creation to eternal life:

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
            to bring glad tidings to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
            to let the oppressed go free,
    and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

And it is fulfilled every day,
in our lights and even in our shadows,
if we but believe.

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginning, but one equal eternity;
in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end.

Prayer of John Donne

Poetry: John Donne (1572–1631)- Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnet X)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Music: Benedictus – 2Cellos

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 114, eight short but extremely powerful verses. They summarize the entire faith journey of Israel, a People born in the Exodus and coming to full promise as they pass over the Jordan.

Crossing the Jordan by James Tissot

Our first reading describes that Jordan passage which mirrors the miraculous passage through the Red Sea. Joshua becomes the new Moses leading the people, finally, into the Promised Land

As early as the 6th century, Psalm 114 was included in funeral and burial liturgies in order to emphasize the triumphant and joyful character of our final passage into heaven.


It’s hard for us to think of death that way. On a purely human level, death feels sad – like an end or a loss. But our faith says differently. 

Even throughout life, in all our smaller losses, frustrations and failures, our faith encourages us to see things differently. Faith calls us to see each “exodus” , each “crossing”, as the beginning of a journey to a new promise. It calls us to remember that the seas and rivers will part – that God always makes a way.

Faith calls us to receive
life’s contradictions and impasses
as opportunities to learn a different way.

In Psalm 114, the poet-psalmist uses natural metaphors to remind us of God’s transformative presence in our lives. The Red Sea disappears. The Jordan River opens a path. Mountains skip and hills leap out of our way.

Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Jordan, that you turned back?
Mountains, that you skipped like rams?
You hills, like lambs?

Psalm 114: 5-6

When we face turbulent seas, overwhelming passages, exoduses from the comfortable places, may we find courage in remembering God’s faithfulness as Psalm 114 encourages us to do.


Poetry: The Valley of Vision – Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. 
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, 
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, 
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

Music: God Will Make a Way – Don Moen

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116, a lyrical interweaving of thanksgiving and praise.

I love this beautiful psalm which expresses the heart’s overwhelming gratitude for the whole mystery of one’s life.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
    for all the good God has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
    and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:12-13

The gratitude is so profound
that we must call on the Holy Spirit
to understand our awed silence
and to pray within us.


This prayer always comes to my mind when one of our Sisters dies. The witness of her life, remembered in our funeral rituals, always stirs me to deeper faith and gratitude.

Precious in your eyes, O LORD
    is the death of your faithful one,
your servant, who has freely
    and lovingly served you.
To you she has offered the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and called upon your name, O LORD.
Her vows to the LORD she has paid
    in the presence of all your people.

Psalm 116: 15-18

It is with perfect timing that this sacred psalm comes up in Friday’s liturgy. At the Motherhouse in Plainfield,NJ, a wonderful Sister of Mercy is laid to rest today – Sister Diane Szubrowski. Her vows to the Lord she has paid – with faith and mercy. May she rest in Glory!


Poetry: Grateful – Thomas Merton

To be grateful
is to recognize
the love of God
in everything.

Music: My Vows to the Lord – John Michael Talbot (lyrics below

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the presence of all His people

For precious in the eyes of the Lord

Is the sacrifice of love

Is the sacrifice of love

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

Your servant am I

Your handmaid’s son

Consecrated to the Lord

I will offer a sacrifice

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the sacrifice of love

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, July 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 124 which is a raw remembering of how bad things could have been without God’s help.

The psalm opens with these lines:

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when all rose against us,
Then we would have been swallowed alive,
for fury blazed against us.

Psalm 124: 1-3

Have you been there? What flares up to swallow your life, your hope, can wear many disguises: 

 

or the many forms of hunger and dying.


The psalm calls us to remember these things for two reasons:

  1. so that we don’t get caught again
  2. and that if – sadly – we do, we remember who freed us

We were rescued like a bird 
    from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare, 
    and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

The release from such snares
does not return us to the way things were.
There will be
wounds and wisdom
to change us.
It depends on us which we choose to cherish.

“Re-membering” ourselves, pulling our new selves together in God, releases us to fuller, deeper life.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

… so surely that Omnipotent God can heal and remake us.

Remember, this and a few other of my images have been set beautifully into cards by Sister Judy Ward, RSM.
You can contact her at

Poetry: The Fowler by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1868-1962)

A wild bird filled the morning air 
With dewy-hearted song; 
I took it in a golden snare 
Of meshes close and strong. 
But where is now the song I heard? 
For all my cunning art, 
I who would house a singing bird 
Have caged a broken heart.

Music: Peter Kater – Wings

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

April 24, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116. Today’s verses are such a lovely prayer of recognition and thanksgiving for God’s goodness.

Praying with this phrase this morning, I realized that there is no adequate answer to the psalmist’s question. We could never repay the munificence of God.

What we can do is to allow God’s Lavish Mercy to flow through our lives returning praise for God’s love. 

My vows to the LORD I will pay
    in the presence of all his people.
Precious in your eyes, O Lord,
    is the living and dying of your faithful ones.

Psalm 116: 14-15

All that we are and have, in life and death,
is through God’s graciousness.
Living out of that understanding changes everything.


Poetry: Little Flute- Tagore

You have made me endless, 
such is Your pleasure. 
This frail vessel You empty again and again, 
and fill it ever with fresh life. 
This little flute of a reed 
You have carried over hills and dales, 
and have breathed through it 
melodies eternally new. 
At the immortal touch of Your hands,
my little heart loses its limits in joy 
and gives birth to utterance ineffable. 
Your infinite gifts come to me 
only on these very small hands of mine. 
Ages pass, and still You pour, 
and still there is room to fill.

Music: Beautiful Dream – Zamfir

Holy Saturday 2021

April 3, 2021

Alternate Reading from Walter Brueggemann 

Today, in Mercy, we join Mary and the disciples as they deal with Christ’s death. No doubt, the range of emotions among them was as great as it would be among any group or family losing someone they dearly loved.

They had entered, with heart-wrenching drama, into a period of bereavement over the loss of Jesus. Doubt, hope, loss, fear, sadness and remembered joy vied for each of their hearts. They comforted one another and tried to understand each other’s handling of their terrible shared bereavement.

They did just what we all do as families, friends and communities when our beloved dies.

But ultimately, our particular bereavement belongs to us alone, woven from the many experiences we have had with the person who has died. These are personal and indescribable, as is the character of our pain and loss.

Do not be afraid of your bereavement.  It is a gift of love.

Holy Saturday, like bereavement, is a time of infrangible silence. No matter how many “whys” we throw heavenward, no answer comes. It is a time to test what Love has meant to us and, even as it seems to leave us, how it will live in us.

As we pray today with the bereaved Mother and disciples, let us fold all our bereavements into their love.  We already know the joyful end to the story, so let us pray today with honesty but also with unconquerable hope that we will live and love again.

Music: Goodbye, Old Friend – Sean Clive

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

April 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31, the prayer of one who will not be shaken from faith in God.

For all my foes I am an object of reproach,
    a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends;
    they who see me abroad flee from me.
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead;
    I am like a dish that is broken.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
    I say, “You are my God.
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
    from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.”

Psalm 31: 12-13

What is there to say about the Good Friday journey of Jesus? It may be that we can only walk beside him in loving, heart-broken silence.

There are times in our lives when we will be called to walk like this beside others in loving and merciful ministry.

There may be times when others are called to walk with us in such a way.

Let these times inform our prayer today.

Good Friday is the time we gather strength and compassionate understanding from Jesus to help us, in his Name, be Mercy in the world.


Poetry: From “The Dream of the Rood”, one of the Christian poems in the corpus of Old English literature and an example of the genre of dream poetry. Like most Old English poetry, it is written in alliterative verse. Rood is from the Old English word rōd ‘pole’, or more specifically ‘crucifix’. Preserved in the 10th-century Vercelli Book, the poem may be as old as the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross, and is considered as one of the oldest works of Old English literature.

The Rood (cross of Christ) speaks:

“It was long past – I still remember it – 
That I was cut down at the copse’s end,
Moved from my root. Strong enemies there took me,
Told me to hold aloft their criminals,
Made me a spectacle. Men carried me
Upon their shoulders, set me on a hill,
A host of enemies there fastened me.

“And then I saw the Lord of all mankind
Hasten with eager zeal that He might mount
Upon me. I durst not against God’s word
Bend down or break, when I saw tremble all
The surface of the earth. Although I might
Have struck down all the foes, yet stood I fast.

“Then the young hero (who was God almighty)
Got ready, resolute and strong in heart.
He climbed onto the lofty gallows-tree,
Bold in the sight of many watching men,
When He intended to redeem mankind.

I trembled as the warrior embraced me.
But still I dared not bend down to the earth,
Fall to the ground. Upright I had to stand.

“A rood I was raised up; and I held high 
The noble King, the Lord of heaven above.
I dared not stoop. They pierced me with dark nails;
The scars can still be clearly seen on me,
The open wounds of malice. Yet might I
Not harm them. They reviled us both together.
I was made wet all over with the blood
Which poured out from his side, after He had 
Sent forth His spirit. And I underwent
Full many a dire experience on that hill.

I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out.
Darkness covered the Ruler’s corpse with clouds
His shining beauty; shadows passed across,
Black in the darkness. All creation wept,
Bewailed the King’s death; Christ was on the cross….

“Now you may understand, dear warrior,
That I have suffered deeds of wicked men
And grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
That far and wide on earth men honor me,
And all this great and glorious creation,
And to this beacon offers prayers. On me
The Son of God once suffered; therefore now
I tower mighty underneath the heavens,
And I may heal all those in awe of me.
Once I became the cruelest of tortures,
Most hateful to all nations, till the time
I opened the right way of life for men.”

Music: Pie Jesu – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 71: A Long Trust

Tuesday of Holy Week

March 30, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 71, a prayer of yielding and confident faith.

Often thought to be the prayer of an aging David, Psalm 71 recalls a long and steady relationship with God. Even as his youthful vigor wanes, the psalmist declares that his true strength rests in God’s faithfulness.

For you are my hope, O LORD;
    my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
    from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
    day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
    and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 71: 15-17
King David as an Old Man – Rembrandt

David witnesses to a powerful faith, one that we all might cherish in our human diminishments. It is hard to lose things in our life – youth, health, relationships, reputation, enthusiasm, hope, direction, security. But all of us face at least some of these challenges at some time in our lives.


Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper,
painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century

In our Gospel today, Jesus acknowledges the loss of trust in a close disciple:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.

John 13:21-22

That betrayal is a sign to Jesus that the great dream of his earthly ministry is coming to an ignominious close when even those dearest to him slip into betrayal and denial.


What is it that holds Jesus together, heart and soul riveted on the Father’s Will, as he moves through these heart-wrenching days.

Jesus is the living sacrament of complete obedience and union with God. Every choice of his life has brought him to a readiness for this final and supreme act of trusting love. Like the psalmist today, Jesus’s whole life proclaims:

I will always hope in you
and add to all your praise.
My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds,
day after day your acts of deliverance,
though I cannot number them all.i
I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord;
O GOD, I will tell of your singular justice.
God, you have taught me from my youth;
to this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 71: 14-17

As we accompany Jesus today, let us pray this psalm with him, asking for an ever-deepening faith, hope, and love.


Poetry: Jesus Weeps – Malcolm Guite

Jesus comes near and he beholds the city
And looks on us with tears in his eyes,
And wells of mercy, streams of love and pity
Flow from the fountain whence all things arise.
He loved us into life and longs to gather
And meet with his beloved face to face
How often has he called, a careful mother,
And wept for our refusals of his grace,
Wept for a world that, weary with its weeping,
Benumbed and stumbling, turns the other way,
Fatigued compassion is already sleeping
Whilst her worst nightmares stalk the light of day.
But we might waken yet, and face those fears,
If we could see ourselves through Jesus’ tears.

Music: Long Ago – Michael Hoppé, Tom Wheater, Michael Tillman

A Psalm from Jeremiah

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

March 27, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray a responsorial from the Book of Jeremiah:

The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards the flock.

The psalm today, with the first reading, brings assurance that God remains with us through suffering and will heal and make us whole again.

That reassurance is needed as we hear the Gospel’s tone darken. After the raising of Lazarus, the whole nation waits to see what will happen to Jesus as Passover nears.


I think, in some ways, impending doom is almost worse than doom itself. Picture the part in a movie where the attacker waits in the dark while the victim tiptoes into lurking danger.

That frightening music they always play! Sometimes the tension heightens to the point that I have to hit the mute or close my eyes!


Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, a 1617 oil painting by Flemish Baroque painter Anthony van Dyck

This is what all surrounding Jerusalem felt like in today’s Gospel. The dark edge of evil hangs in inevitable threat.

But for Jesus, who walked in the hidden light of the Father, the moment brought more than threatening shadows. It was time to fulfill an ancient promise. It was time to offer the greatest act of Love.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
    proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
    he guards them as a shepherd his flock.
The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
    he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.

Jeremiah 31: 10-12

As Jesus went off alone to Ephraim to prepare his heart and soul for this ultimate fulfillment, perhaps a prayer from Jeremiah strengthened him, a remembered promise from Ezekiel focused him.

Let us pray with Jesus today as he asks the Father to “shepherd” him. With Jesus, may we find our own strengths and understandings in these ancient prophets.


Poetry: Redemption by George Herbert (1593-1633)who was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognised as “one of the foremost British devotional lyricists.”

Having been tenant long to a rich lord, 
    Not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold, 
    And make a suit unto him, to afford 
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old. 

In heaven at his manor I him sought; 
    They told me there that he was lately gone 
    About some land, which he had dearly bought 
Long since on earth, to take possessiòn. 

I straight returned, and knowing his great birth, 
    Sought him accordingly in great resorts; 
    In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts; 

At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth 
    Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied, 
    Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.

Music: Like a Shepherd – St. Louis Jesuits

Psalm 81: Through the Storm

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

March 12, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 81, another call to listen to God’s Word in order to find the fullness of life:

If only my people would hear me,
    and Israel walk in my ways,
I would feed them with the best of wheat,
    and with honey from the rock I would fill them.


But honestly, isn’t it hard to listen sometimes. Even the psalm suggests that there are such loud, distracting events in our lives that we sometimes can’t hear that Word:

In distress you called, and I rescued you.
 Unseen, I answered you in thunder;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear, my people, and I will admonish you;
    O Israel, will you not hear me?


The psalm shows us that God’s deepest Word
comes to us in thunder, in storm.
It is a truth Jesus embraced on Calvary.
It is a truth our lives will sometimes require of us.


This morning my prayer is filled with thoughts of my friend whose young daughter died last week. When even I, who never met Emily, can feel the overwhelming sadness of her untimely death, what unbearable storm must surround her parents! How can they hear the word of faith in the tumult?


Many years ago, I attended an evening event on the other side of my state. During the ceremony, a tornado touched down very nearby. After several frightening hours, I was able to travel back to my hotel, about five miles away.

But the roads were blocked with debris. The streets lights and signs had been blown down. And I was completely unfamiliar with the vicinity. I did eventually make it “home” to the hotel, but it wasn’t the same as I had left it. Part of the roof lay across the street. The window in my room had been fractured and boarded up.

For me, the memory is a parable about suffering. When the storm comes, we may pass through it, but we are not unchanged. Our world is not unchanged.

Jesus was not unchanged by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. By hearing God’s Word in the storm, Jesus was transformed. This is the legacy of faith Christ has given us in the Paschal Mystery. May it strengthen, heal, and transform us this Lent. May it comfort all those who so dearly love Emily.


Poetry: The Man Watching  by Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Robert Bly

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on 
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book, 
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny! 
What fights with us is so great. 
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm, 
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things, 
and the triumph itself makes us small. 
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us. 
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews 
grew long like metal strings, 
he felt them under his fingers 
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel 
(who often simply declined the fight) 
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand, 
that kneaded him as if to change his shape. 
Winning does not tempt that man. 
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, 
by constantly greater beings.


Music: Moonlight Sonata in a Thunderstorm